Justify Your Unflushed Shit: Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus

3162
284
Share:

Journal of extreme record, Decibel Magazine, previously featured a highly entertaining column entitled Justify Your Shitty Taste, in which a staff writer would defend a notorious album that was badly received by critics and fans upon release and, with a few notable exceptions, generally hasn’t had its reputation rehabilitated since. No prizes for guessing that St. Anger was one of the featured records. Or Cold Lake. Or Diabolus in Musica. Or Turbo and Swansong – though they are probably the most prominent examples of records that have been exonerated by history.

Sadly the series ceased  – maybe the bad releases by established bands just got so sucky, no hack could find merit in them even after smoking an entire greenhouse of cannabis and being bribed by the record label.

But I propose that we in the Toilet ov Hell revive Decibel’s tradition of devil’s advocate polemics. For potential copyright-infringement concerns we’ll alter the title of our series, but the spirit and ritual remain: One of us delivers an impassioned and logical rant about why a much-maligned record is actually brilliant or at least not as bad as everybody else claimed before flushing. Then, in the comments section, everybody else tells the writer s/he’s a deranged fuckwit with stupefying taste and possibly a wallet full of record label payola.

In the time the Toilet’s been on the grid, I’ve noticed that my thoughts seem to be quite respected around here. It is sincerely gratifying. But today, let’s put an unceremonious end to that as I inaugurate Justify Your Unflushed Shit by feebly suggesting that metalheads everywhere give a second chance to Morbid Angel’s 2011 disasterpiece, Illud Divinum Insanus.

I.

Devastatingly bad reviews are always a lot more fun to read than effusively good ones, and “devastatingly bad” are almost the only sort I could find from the time of Illud Divinum Insanus’s release. I’d not anticipated how much fun doing the research for this article was going to be.

“’Illud Divinum Insanus’ is meant to be extreme music for extreme people, but unfortunately I’m sat at a desk with a mug of tea in a comfortably lit room, and I’m not feeling particularly extreme; nowhere around are there ravaged animal carcasses, semi-conscious hookers or paintings on linen canvas, sketched out with sky blue Crayola and detailed with my own faeces. Maybe it’s not for me, then, but let’s face it – it’s probably not for you, either.”

– Duncan Geddes, www.ultimate-guitar.com

 “ ‘Radikult’ is simply..… bad butt rock that manages to be every bit as banal as commercially driven hard rock usually is. “Radikult” also manages to go on for far too long, making it fail at everything that it attempts to do. It’s too mainstream to please the band’s fans, while the rest of the album won’t appeal to mainstream listeners….a song that, if remembered at all, will be remembered for appealing to nobody.”

– Dasher10, www.metalunderground.com

 “It wouldn’t surprise me if Trey never turned over the demos to Season Of Mist. Or perhaps the label, thrilled to have signed the highest-priority act in death metal today….had no real idea what atrocity was about to transpire. Morbid Angel has all but abandoned everything that made them the top-tier performers they once were, striking down their death metal aesthetic in favor of an outdated, lazy techno/industrial vibe that sounds hilariously out of place… Something has gone terribly wrong here, and it is utterly baffling that this was allowed to happen.

We couldn’t even team up on this with opposing views, because there are no opposing views anywhere on our staff.

….entitling a song “Too Extreme!” only serves to call attention to the fact that there is nothing extreme, interesting, or in any way laudable about it. Additionally, calling the outro to your shit-fest of an album “Mea Culpa” (the Latinate equivalent of “My bad”) seems to go beyond a palatable level of wink-and-nudge critic-baiting, and instead approaches the level of reckless self-harm that typically requires civil commitment….the intermittent telephone rings that Season Of Mist inserted throughout the promo download of this album actually improve upon what has been recorded.”

– Jim Brandon and Dan Obstkreig, Lastrites.

Okay, I think you get the idea. Now my turn.

II.

It’s very difficult for me to criticize Morbid Angel, no matter how bad they artistically misfire. Because the truth is, they habitually have. Even they admit that they took two attempts at getting their debut album recorded, and now regard the first attempt in 1986 as a non-canonical bootleg. It took me many years to figure out which Morbid Angel album I liked best, because to me, they all have some less-than-stellar songs. It’s a bit difficult to grant an album All-Killer-No-Filler status when perhaps 30% of the setlist is done on keyboards after a 10-hour Quake marathon. (I finally settled on Covenant, which seems to be a safe choice at this point in history.) At any rate, when some of the other material on your albums ranks as possibly the only example in metal which sounds like it actually was written and performed by Lovecraftian demons instead of 20-something humans – which literally does sound insanely inspired by dark possession – I absolutely think you’ve earned the moral capital to get it wrong sometimes.

My point is – a Morbid Angel album where a lot of the material makes you raise your eyebrow incredulously was not a new experience for me by the time I heard Illud Divinum Insanus. But here’s where I get more contentious: Examined carefully, there is absolutely nothing on Illud Divinum Insanus which is without precedent in Morbid Angel’s artistic remit. Nothing. It is NOT a sell-out. For anybody who understands this, the worst that can be claimed is that the band just happened to emphasize the aspects nobody really prefers, but which were either kept on a tolerably tight leash throughout previous excursions, or relegated to remix EPs.

Looked at statistically and disqualifying the intro (just as you’d have to do if we were examining Blessed Are the Sick or Gateways to Annihilation), the record features five out of ten songs that could be classed as “orthodox”, Morbid Angel-style death metal: “Existo Vulgore,” “Blades for Baal,” “10 More Dead,” “Nevermore,” and “Beauty Meets Beast.”

Of those, “Existo Vulgore” and “Nevermore” are perfectly serviceable Morbid Angel numbers that I can get behind. Moreover “Blades For Baal” is the standout of the orthodox tracks and one which I knew, from the first time I heard it, was destined for the Greatest Morbid Hits playlist on my i-Pod alongside the likes of “Chapel of Ghouls”, “Brainstorm”, “God of Emptiness”, etc. It somewhat resembles “Vengeance Is Mine” – another personal favourite – but also features a very nicely-executed breakdown and solo.

I’m also partial to “10 More Dead.” At the time, this track came under hive-mind fire for apparently sounding too “nu-metal.” I’m sorry, but equating that song to the output of Korn or Soulfly, as many did, is just asinine. For one thing, it’d have to be the first nu-metal song I’ve ever heard with a skank-and-blast middle section. (It’s quite funny to designate, as a nu-metal song, a composition that 99.9% of nu-metal bands would thereby be incapable of performing. Look, here’s a fun exercise: Some weeks ago, here at the TovH, we featured a nu-metal theme for Riff ov the Week. So I guess what you’re saying is that, had I entered the competition, I could have used one of the riffs from this song? Anybody care to tell me which one?)

The main rationale for such a categorization appeared to be that Morbid Angel used a lower-than-usual tuning, probably on a different guitar – like an Ibanez Universe 7-string. That, you’ll remember, was the axe of choice for the nu-metallers; hence the categorization. The only problem is – that as anyone who got Covenant when it first came out will remember – Morbid Angel were employing 7-string guitars when the nu-metal genre was still in diapers. You’re putting cart before horse.

At this point it needs to be established: Contrary to conventional wisdom, Illud Divinum Insanus is, at the very least, a 50 percent death metal album and 100% a Morbid Angel album. Anybody who ranks it as an artistic misfire on the level of Cold Lake or, say, Lulu, is patently incorrect. The only way it could be that is if Lulu featured a token bunch of songs which sounded like they came from Master of Puppets and Lou Reed wasn’t singing on them.

III.

Now let’s deal with the other five decidedly unorthodox songs. Two fall into a category of being songs that resemble Laibach remixes of themselves: “Too Extreme!” and “Destructos vs. The Earth.” In other words, if they’d gotten Tim Yeung to provide the kick and snare for those songs instead of just the cymbals – perhaps in some busier or more brutal patterns than what was programmed – and omitted some of the electro bells and whistles, they’d more closely resemble “orthodox” death metal – of sorts.

That leaves us with “I Am Morbid,” the infamously derided “Radikult,” and “Profundis-Mea Culpa.” Of those three, “I Am Morbid,” oft dismissed as a hideous attempt at stadium rock, isn’t that extraordinary if you consider some of the band’s earlier excursions into outright groove like “Where the Slime Live.” “Profundis-Mea Culpa” – besides being somewhat a reprise of the first two tracks – bears slight resemblance to another song from the same 1995 album; namely “Hatework” – a self-consciously experimental closer which everybody seemed to like in those days.

(I’ll go out on a limb and say that stylistically, the whole record picks up where Domination left off. Had David Vincent remained in the band all those years, it’s possible we would have gotten a record like Illud Divinum Insanus much sooner. The difference is that back then, the “industrial experimentation” singled out for the most criticism on account of sounding so “dated” wouldn’t have been dated at all – instead, the band would have been accused of bandwagon-jumping. Which they would have been, but whatever.)

No band ever deserves to be lauded just for the sake of experimentation itself. That’s the main criticism that is made of Illud Divinum Insanus, and let me state now that I think it’s a totally legitimate one. In fact, I agree with it – Illud Divinum Insanus does not strike me as a particularly “cutting-edge” album by 2011 extreme metal standards; and I too would have preferred a higher ratio of orthodox death metal. But orthodox death metal itself does not guarantee merit. After all, Heretic has the highest concentration of orthodox death metal Morbid Angel have ever offered since Altars of Madness – and it holds the distinction of being the most unmemorable Morbid Angel album I own. I own all of them, and Heretic is the only one I haven’t listened to in the many years since I got it.

Plenty pointed out that in 2011, there was nothing “extreme” or “cutting-edge” about crossing over to low-tier industrial rock – like Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, or White Zombie – from about fifteen years prior. For me personally, though, that was always a moot point. Any self-respecting Morbid Angel fan in the late ‘90s was paying as little attention as possible to mall-rat abominations like those acts anyway – so even in 2011, what Morbid Angel were doing kinda was fresh and “new” by default, at least to me.

But I concede that’s a strawman argument. More honestly I have to address a deeper concern fans have about a band losing its stylistic identity – people who have been fans of Morbid Angel just as long as I have and who have invested just as much of their own identity into it all. Doing this recalls my observation about the band sounding like a bunch of Lovecraftian demons. With their inhuman percussive battery, twisted riffs, tortured solos and all-round dragged-from-another-dimension vibe, topped off with Vincent’s classic Death Metal English lyricism, Morbid Angel certainly achieved that in a way that many other peers curiously didn’t.

For listeners who get off on that trademark demonic vibe, it can be a little disconcerting when Morbid Angel break character and seem merely “human”. They’ve done that occasionally in the past – there were hints of it on Domination; and as much as I enjoy Pete Sandoval under the microscope on Heretic with “Drum Check”, I have to admit that putting a drum solo on a Morbid Angel record that is introduced by a studio engineer directing Pete to hit his kick drum is really quite out of context. Any spoken words on a Morbid Angel record should be ritual incantations, not sound-checks. You may as well have Nile write a song about hot-rods that starts out with engine-revving noises.

Well, Illud Divinum Insanus is full of disconcerting, all-too-of-this-world moments like that. Again, they mightn’t be without precedent, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily welcome. The lighters/smartphones-ahoy call-and-response of “I Am Morbid,” the news broadcast in “Destructos vs. The Earth”, the whole fucking concept of “Radikult” with its Yee-hah! vocal stylings – don’t worry, I’m not even going to try and defend that song. If I was a Season of Mist executive, it’s the one track I would have insisted they omit. (Although to the “Bodycount called; they want their lyrics back” brigade I must point out: It’s “Killer Cult” you dicks, not “Kill a cop.” Granted, that’s not to suggest it’s any better a line; nor to deny the liner notes should’ve included a lyric sheet to avoid confusion.)

Indeed, the overall lack of Death Metal English on the album in favour of repetitive sloganeering, gang vocals and so forth is somewhat off-putting. It sounds like David Vincent, but it doesn’t play like him. That said, for me,“I Am Morbid” is a nice change of pace from the preceding blasters even if it is a stark example of the “too human” Morbid Angel; so I can get behind that, too. And here’s the shocker: I love “Destructos vs. The Earth.” Disco rhythms, high-pitched backing vocals and all. To me it’s not only catchy – there’s something remarkably Morbid Angel about it for such an unconventional approach. I can’t effectively explain why, but it’s my favourite track on the album. It would be easy to explain that the song is saved by Azagthoth’s characteristic and singular guitar-playing – an element that was begrudgingly listed as one of few redeeming features across pretty much the whole album by critics trying to find something nice to say – but for me it goes way beyond that. I don’t like the song in spite of itself; I actually like it; as in – I would gladly cover it in a Morbid Angel tribute band.

IV.

Before concluding, let me address a few other criticisms that I remember dominating reviews and comment threads in 2011:

1) “It isn’t the same without Pete.”

And Surgical Steel isn’t the same without Ken. In fact, Morbid Angel isn’t the same without Mike Browning, Dallas Ortega or Richard Brunelle; certainly not without Erik Rutan. Hell, Napalm Death wasn’t even the same side of the LP without Justin Broadrick. But shit happens.

It shouldn’t even need saying: People, this is heavy metal. Line-up changes aren’t just inevitable, they’re practically mandatory. Sure, I might be saying this as somebody whose favourite Van Halen album is 5150; and I’ll understand if you think that disqualifies my judgment. But if we go through your favourite records by your favourite bands, I’ll bet we can find at least one historical example where people said, “They’re never gonna pull it off without that guy” and then they did. Seriously, this argument should have died out from Heaven and Hell onwards.

2) “The drums [on the death metal songs] sound too triggered.”

This one should’ve died out by now too. As I understand it, there are only two Morbid Angel albums where the kick drums weren’t triggered: A (Canonical), and A (Non-Canonical). So if it’s about the bass drums sounding “fake”, well, you’ve had since 1991 to air that gripe. As for the rest of the kit, it varies over the years of their back-catalogue. On B, the snare was triggered too – if I remember correctly from watching Tom Morris explain it on the DVD. On F, it was kicks only. On G, it sounds like snare and the toms as well, although it’s amazing how much a dose of gated reverb can make real toms sound like fake ones; so you never know (There’s a LOT of albums nowadays where the drums sound like those on Gateways). I’ll say this much: Apart from the kicks, the entire kit sounds a damn sight more real on I than it did on G; so I don’t really know what everybody’s problem is. (Note: I’m NOT talking about the obviously-programmed drums on the non-orthodox material.)

Sample-replacement of acoustic drums on records has gone from being a necessary evil in death metal to a ubiquitous industry standard in heavy metal generally. I’m not in love with it; and I’d prefer if “good” drum sounds (a subjective matter anyway) could be achieved without resorting to triggered samples. But all I’m gonna say is: If you’re going to criticize the “fakeness” of the drums on Illud Divinum Insanus, you’d better not be a fan of Pig Destroyer or Genghis Tron.

3) “The vocals are too high in the mix.”

I agree. But have you heard Blessed Are the Sick lately? Go back right now and have a listen.

Points 2 and 3 highlight various gripes about the production; often a sore point with Morbid Angel over the years. Their albums haven’t always strictly sounded like what you would expect of a premiere death metal band’s records. At various times their albums have stood accused of sounding sludgy/muddy (D), tinny (C), plastic (B), robotic (G), or sterile (H). Plenty of bands weather such criticisms, but remarkably only Morbid Angel have ever managed to collect such a variety of oft-contradictory adjectives throughout their career.

It possibly has as much to do with the fact that unlike their peers, Morbid Angel made a point of working with different producers on nearly every outing rather than lucking out with Scott Burns or Colin Richardson and sticking with him – a brave approach resulting in a decidedly mixed bag of sonic capture. It’s my personal belief that only Gateways to Annihilation has ever yielded what I imagine to be the heaving majesty of a band with Morbid Angel’s trademark, and even that has its flaws. Tellingly, though, no Morbid Angel record has ever stopped them from sounding like Morbid Angel and that is due to one element alone: Trey Azagthoth’s guitar-playing. Do you want evil? Do you want inhumanity? That’s where you’ll find it on any Morbid Angel record; including this one. After ten albums, beyond any doubt is the fact that you can change drummers and second guitar players; you can even change frontmen – but if you took Azagthoth out of Morbid Angel, that’s where it ends.

V.

Leaving the “Too Human!” issue aside, there’s an even more telling dichotomy which I believe gets to the heart of why people found Illud Divinum Insanus so off-putting.

The successful pop artist is one who uses different sounds to play the same song; whereas the successful rock artist uses different songs to play the same sound. That probably belies the importance of songwriting over signature sound, as far as the rock artist is concerned. Generally, an album where all ten songs have the same instrumental arrangement presented in the same type of mix (ie: most heavy metal albums) better have real strength and diversity in songwriting to maintain interest. (That or impeccable chops. Both together are ideal, though so many death metal bands settle for only the latter one.)

But signature sound can’t be discounted in the equation, because it is the signature sound that often determines what can be gotten away with in songwriting as well as in change of genre, which is sometimes required when trying different approaches to songwriting. Successful pop artists are required to reinvent their image and sound to stay relevant; while the successful rock band has a different challenge: Maintain the signature sound and image, but use it to play different, more adventurous, and more diverse types of song. In rock, credibility is all wrapped up in the notion of resisting outside pressure to change, rather than adapting to change successfully as it is in pop.

Rock artists are expected to change only in the sense that they explore their persona more deeply rather than being compelled to overhaul it radically. Beyond that, they are required to surpass personal musical achievements of a nature they’ve already demonstrated prowess in (writing better songs, playing guitar more extravagantly or more subtly, etc.), or, if possible, to achieve greater social relevance on their own terms. But if not capable of doing any of those things – if only capable of revealing a certain amount of their persona, if only willing to play certain types of song and unable to write better ones, if unwilling to deliver a message to anyone beyond the crowd they’ve already gotten acceptance from – they will probably still maintain their advantage provided they maintain the signature sound they’ve already established. That is exactly where the AC/DCs, Motorheads and Slayers of the world have found themselves, and there are much worse places to be.

By contrast, the Led Zeppelins, Judas Priests, Metallicas, Megadeths, Celtic Frosts and even Bathory have taken the bigger gamble we most famously associate with the Beatles or U2 – crossing genres, mastering different types of song, more persona-led development in songwriting, even trying different instrumentation and production methods. It’s a gamble that sometimes pays off, with commensurate rewards; but it can only be taken so far as it doesn’t endanger credibility. Celtic Frost sometimes succeeded (as on Into the Pandemonium), and sometimes failed (as on Cold Lake).

Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” might be a ballad with a string section in the arrangement; but it’s a good ballad and it still sounds like Metallica. There is no hint (yet) of a band undergoing identity crisis, or that they couldn’t handle the unfamiliar terrain. It simply comes across as a thrash metal act who have the confidence and skill to try something quite uncharacteristic; whereas the same band’s live album featuring orchestral accompaniment for every song was generally seen (like so many band-plus-orchestra attempts are) as a frivolous elaboration without improvement.

In short, the popular consensus on Morbid Angel’s gambit with Illud Divinum Insanus is failure: That a rock band attempted unsuccessfully to broaden their artistic capabilities in three ways: 1) By using their existing, organic death metal signature sound to write different types of song than usual (mainly anthems like “I Am Morbid”); 2) altering that signature sound with different (ie: electronic) instrumentation (as in “Too Extreme!”);  or 3) doing both (as in “Radikult” or “Destructos vs. the Earth”). On top of that, 4) their frontman has, through his lyrics, delivery and image, altered his persona somewhat. If you think that the new types of songwriting aren’t handled well, or if you think that the alterations to the signature sound aren’t interesting, or if you don’t like the change in persona, then Illud is indeed a bad record. But it’s my contention that with less percussion-programming and more Death Metal English, more of you would have let them get away with it.

For me, Illud Divinum Insanus is an entirely precedented – if out of character – Morbid Angel record which features six songs I enjoy, conveniently all in one uninterrupted sequence from tracks 3 through 8. Additionally I can tolerate tracks 1 and 2; it’s only from 9 onwards that the program seriously loses me. In other words, purely on the basis of how much material I find to be a compelling and unembarrassing listen, Illud Divinum Insanus mightn’t be Covenant or Gateways to Annihilation. But nor is it Heretic. Possibly more for the sake of their reputation than my own comfort, I don’t want another Morbid Angel album as divergent as Illud Divinum Insanus. But I can certainly live with and enjoy the one.

Fire away.

Photo VIA Invisible Oranges.

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
  • Maik Beninton

    Shouldn’t it be flushed shit?

    • Shrimp in a Pizza Box

      Well, they themselves didn’t flush it, and they should justify why they didn’t actually flush it I guess.

  • The flushing cannot be undone

    • Guppusmaximus

      S.O.D. >>>>>>>>> Morbid Angel

      • Óðhinn

        Good point. He’s wearing a S.O.D. Shirt. He’s clearly not worried that people will think he’s a racist idiot. Billy Milano is an embarrassment to music.

    • tertius_decimus

      What if I didn’t like “Illud Divinum Insanus” but at the same time didn’t dislike it? Am I stuck in the wormhole between Universes?

  • The Beargod

    You sir, are a deranged fuckwit with stupefying taste and a wallet full of record label payola.

    • Max

      I please to aim!

  • I was never a Morbid Angel fan but…

    OMFG, MAX IS IN DA HOUSE!!!!!!!!!

    • Maik Beninton

      I was waiting for this post, but I didn’t thought it would be this long.

  • JamesGrimm
  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Wow, that’s a lot of words about an album that is one giant abortion.

    • Max

      The more giant they abort, the more defending they take.

  • Tyree

    That was a lot of words for me to read dude. I have brain of a guy that drinks beer 7-8 hours a day, this fucking hurt me.

    This album still blows though. Pure Garbage. I never even finished the damn thing.

    • more beer

      Holding a job and drinking beer for 7 or 8 hours a day is very commendable!

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Agree on pure garbage. I tried listening out of sheer masochistic curiosity when it came out and I barely, BARELY made it halfway through before giving up. An absolute shit sandwich of an album.

      • Tyree

        It would be the ultimate test to try and make it through it.

    • Óðhinn
  • I have never listened to Morbid Angel.

    SM

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
      • This is good! I am glad our fall-out is over, KSOFM.

        SM

        • Tyree

          This album rules. But check out everything before this album too.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Ditto.

          • I will listen to it right now and report back afterwards. Thanks.

            SM

          • I have always heard Gojira draws influence from Morbid Angel and I can definitely hear the similarities, now.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            Check out Gateways, mate.

          • Thanks, I will do so after Domination is done. Man Domination is good!

            SM

          • J.R.

            Man Domination may or may not be my fetish.

            J.R.

          • in my humble subjective opinion…the main riff in Dawn of the Angry is one of the best extreme metal riffs EVER

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Wow, I love how people are bashing a band around here that basically brought blastbeats to death metal, thus changing death metal forever.

          • I am bashing them?

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            No, just others. That was just my two cents and it came under your comment. And just the obvious aspect of how influential Morbid Angel is/was.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            I’d say they’ve been influential on the dissonant path too. Gateways sounds very alien to this day.

          • Scrimm

            That’s a lot of why I like it when their other stuff falls short for me. It sounds liike some giant heaving mass.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            You know me. I like my metal weird. That’s why it’s my preferred MA album.

          • I like how each classic death metal band had their own material and approach to the genre. From the groove of Obituary, the dark thrashy of Possession and the proggy Death…

            I still put my vote to Death. But the entire death metal genre have so many edges!

          • The closeness between MA meaning Metaphysical Anus and Morbid Angel is really throwing me off today.

            SM

          • The Beargod

            You should start signing your comments S&M

          • That was a good album.

            S&M

          • Tyree

            First album I ever bought by them. Found it in Best Buy out of all the places my freshman year of high school. Worked backwards from there. That was a exciting experience, Pete really influenced my drumming a lot.

          • Scrimm

            Dude I found Demilich in Best Buy! They used to have some real gems hidden amongst all the crap. Sandoval is by far the best thing about MA, though I personally don’t enjoy the bulk of their material his impact is undeniable.

          • Love the performance on World Downfall by Terrorizer. Sounds like he really let loose on that recording.

          • Tyree

            One of my favorite albums dude. Shit goes hard!

          • Ditto – an all time great.

          • Max

            It’s his definitive performance to this day.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Oh, without a doubt.

          • Scrimm

            Honest question, what is their best stuff in your opinion?

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            All up to Gateway. Blessed’s production was really flat and bland, though.

          • Tyree

            Some sick songs on Blessed though. This song always gets my blood pumping.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDqsU9jvHM4

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Oh, no doubt. But it’s just an album, I never grab to listen to because of said production.

          • Tyree

            Exactly, crazy how some people do that though. People immediately judge something based solely on production.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yeah, which shouldn’t phase me because of all the necro shit I love. But I think what always bugged me about that album, is it was never loud enough. Morrisound was so over-hyped.

          • Tyree
          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Don’t get me started on that album. So cunting quiet and the album is so cunting good. FUCK!

          • Dean the P.I. Staker

            Indeed. I have the original pressing of Covenant, and my modern, blasted ears find it a tad too quiet. Still slays, but the loudness wars really dampened the effect of some older pressings.

          • MoshOff

            ReplayGain will ease all your woes. All of my pre-mid-90s CD rips sound louder than most modern overcompressed stuff when I use RG.

          • Scrimm

            Very hit or miss

          • Scrimm

            I’ve heard a lot of conflicting opinions about Blessed. It’s not that I dislike them really, except some shit Trey said in an old interview I mentioned a while back, they’ve just never quite done it for me. It is about time I went back and revisited some of it though, it’s been several years. Many times have my opinions changed going back to stuff much later.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yeah, it’s always good to revisit shit. Your palate, tastes, mood changes and suddenly the album kicks ass, etc.

          • Scrimm

            Honestly most of my favorite shit is stuff I didn’t like initially. Even if I hated them I wouldn’t slight their impact in the genre.

          • Max

            It’s amazing (and really cool) how much that album has gone up in estimation to be regarded as a classic. At the time I remember Terrorizer magazine calling it “the first Morbid Angel record to disappoint.” I always thought some of the material on it was spectacular.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Never said it was over.

          • Well… at least you are acknowledging me. So that is progress 🙂

            SM

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Don’t get too excited lifelover.

          • /noted

        • Mother Shabubu III

          Supposedly they packaged “Domination” with like a slime pack thing that was proven to be toxic. “Illud Divinum Insanus” was just a heap of shit disguised as a CD.

    • JamesGrimm

      iVE LISTENED TO ONE OR 2

    • Scrimm

      You ain’t missing much. Gateways>> everything else<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    • bravo on the stellar troll GL

      • But really.

        SM

        • It’s like you were born in a cave filled with only bad music and then you stayed there forever.

          • Is this the ‘cunting void’ you rascals talk about that much?

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            No, that is not the cunting void.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Featured comment??????????????????????

          • Don’t you mean your own underwater cave?

            You must be confusing your cave with mine.

            SM

    • This is the only Morbid Angel song I dig a lot. They’re a good band, just not my vibe:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYZktLCBxjk

    • Sir Tapir the Based™

      You haven’t missed anything good.

      • You tend to have, uh, opinions about things. Mostly I can let you be wrong in peace, but I just had to step in and let you know how wrong you are on this one: Very Wrong.

      • Scrimm

        I almost agree with you on this one.

  • Shrimp in a Pizza Box

    Haven’t finished reading the article yet (because holy shit that thing is long), but I love the concept and would definitely like to see some more of this.

  • Tyree

    Off topic here, but I just had a Big Lebowski moment in a work meeting that I just got out of. Our president who is in his late 70’s was telling us a story about his childhood in the 50’s during the Korean War. He told all of us that he would go in the woods with a toy gun and pretend that he was in the Korean War and he would shoot all the China men dead.

    http://students.greshamhs.org/10/osheam/lebowski/jeffrey-lebowski1.jpg

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Did he fuck the corpses when he got done killing them?

      • Tyree

        Fuck! I should have asked.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Damn it dude. Talk about a missed opportunity.

        • more beer

          There were so many questions could have asked.. Like did you burn their villages? You could have filled the rest of your day up with them.

    • Scrimm

      Hahahaha that’s awesome.

    • Sounds like a real important meeting.

      • Tyree

        It wasn’t. 2 hours wasted on time I could have been wasting here.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Classy. Report him to HR.

    • Taylor Jong Un

      What the hell company are you working for?! Stormfront?! Fox News?

  • 3xtreme5me. Still, I like the idea of defending universally hated albums.

  • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

    INB4 Kim Jung Un shows up and tries once again to get everyone to listen to a techno band’s remix of this album.

    • Mother Shabubu III

      I want to here a lounge jazz version of “Radikult”.

      • Taylor Jong Un

        I wanna hear Richard Cheese do a version of it!

        • Mother Shabubu III

          Spoken word Shatner version. Make it happen universe.

          • Taylor Jong Un

            Or Unknown Hinson! He does the voice of Early on the Squidbillies, and yes he does naturally talk like that.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B46yPJm6P9E

          • Ted Nü-Djent ™

            Bang…… it…… hard…….core……. and radical

            Man……iacal……… and……… like an animal

            Beasts stomping………. with an appetite………. insatiable

            We……… are the radi……kult…

      • Max

        That would be an improvement. It’s the right rhythm anyway. If David Vincent were David Lee Roth, it’d already be done.

    • Taylor Jong Un

      Project Pitchfork is techno?! Do tell! I guess Morbid Angel is samba, then.

  • You make a great case for justifying this one Max but I think the lesson here is that you never go full retard.

  • Simon “Djentcrusher” Phoenix

    I will say this about Illud (anyone who knows me knows my opinion about this album, so I won’t waste anyone’s time stating it again.); people really need to stop blaming David Vincent.

    Trey wanted the album to be what it was. If I remember, Radikult was written by Trey, not David. David being into industrial and returning to the band was a coincidence.

    • It’s the soul patch. Soon as you sprout one of those, people will be looking to blame you for any damn thing.

      • And you deserve it.

      • Tyree

        “That’s a game changer bro”

        – David Vincent

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        Evil D made me do it.

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      Simon is right. There were multiple interviews at the time where Trey mentioned being a weeaboo and getting inspiration from weeb things.

      • what? that Sailor Moon story is real?

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Yeah, he’s a total dork.

          • Tyree
          • This is.. Huh… WOW!

            He really sets apart of the tovgh gvy death metal stereotype. It’s good, to me, but he moves very weird when he talks and he have a funny accent.

            “woah, wee!”

          • Tyree

            Like KSOFM said, “Total Dork”

          • Checking google of “Dork”: “Someone who has odd interests, and is often silly at times”.

            So, he’s like a weird drugged nerd.

          • Tyree

            He is a odd duder, but goddamn did he write some amazing riffs and songs.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            And his leads. Those leads are just insane.

          • Tyree

            Such an odd style, it works so well though.

            Edit: I think they got weirder as the band went on.

          • Clean as fuck too. He gets a lot of notoriety for just going wild but the dude could seriously play and I feel he doesn’t get enough credit for how clean and precise he was.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP5mJUwnX9k

          • If he played in that Where the slimes live song I shared to GL, he got my two Bolívares.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            He’s just past his prime, like so many other “artists”.

          • Guppusmaximus

            Hate to break it to you but most of the dudes who were either in Thrash / Death Metal bands in the 80s or listened to them were fairly dorkish myself included. 90% of that tough exterior is just a put on…

          • Yeah, I know, that was I say it was a stereotype for a outsider of the scene (should have clarified that).

            Other people were very lifeloving. Like Chuck Schuldiner.

          • Guppusmaximus

            Yea, I should’ve read the stereotype part better but it just still makes me laugh when anyone acts surprised by a Metal musicians offstage personality. However, you are correct about Mr. Schuldiner… He was a happy dude that had some really impressive thoughts about stuff. That’s why his music is timeless and not just a negativity fest even though it had an unmatchable extremeness to it. The fucking guy was brilliant and I miss his gifts.

          • #RIPChuck, bro 🙁 he’s really missed. I came late to merol and later to death merol; but I have spinned so much the Death records that I felt very bad reading their website with all of those interviews about the impotence on the medical treatment of his disease.

            He truly seemed to be a genuine good guy. And all the good words wasn’t only because he was dead, but because he really was a good hearted person.

          • Guppusmaximus

            Yup… there’s no fluff there. His friend & former (?) manager Eric Greif seems like a great guy and has a shit ton of stories about Chuck that definitely showcase his true nature, plus you can find some video interviews online that support that as well.

          • Max

            I remember once hearing a radio interview with Trey when he was going through his Deepak Chopra phase, and he talked – endlessly – about “personal development sweeps”.

            It’s one of the reasons I’d always wished Morbid Angel actually did become successful in the mainstream. Just the thought of Trey getting “The Rolling Stone Interview” treatment and some mainstream journo having to sit through hours of stream-of-consciousness musings would be worth it.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Fuck, I hated Headbangers Ball.

          • Tyree

            It only got worse too.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Shock.

          • Taylor Jong Un

            I liked the first one, but then again it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to entertain a 9 year old.

      • Liking anime makes you a weaboo? Shit.

        • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

          No, but your human-sized pillow does.

  • Tyree
    • killer tyree!

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      That show is nuts. So good.

      • Tyree

        Yup. I think this is my most viewed concert on youtube.

    • Dean the P.I. Staker

      I’ve watched their performance of “Chapel of Ghouls” from that 1989 show probably a thousand times. So good. You could’ve powered a Las Vegas casino with the energy in that room. Wicked.

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        One of my favorite Morbid Angel tracks.

        • Max

          My number one favourite MA track. First one I ever heard, too. It opened the Grindcrusher compilation, which changed my life listening-wise.

  • Guppusmaximus

    I don’t know if it was a timing thing or just merely a lack of interest but I never cared for Morbid Angel. I remember people name-dropping them like they were brutal because of their name but, to me, most of their music always paled in comparison to the other Thrash / Death acts around during the late 80s early 90s. Just my .02

    • more beer

      I have to agree I saw them in 91 with Uleashed and Entombed. I thought both of those bands blew them off the stage that night.

      • Guppusmaximus

        Never got to see my fav Death Metal acts live but I was too awe-inspired by Obituary, Sodom, Grave & Death to really give a hoot about Morbid Angel especially considering that “Spiritual Healing” was a far superior album compared to “Altars of Madness”.

        • more beer

          There was so much going on then these guys were a blip on my radar at best. It sucks you didn`t get to see your favorite bands. I saw Death in this club that held about 300 people on that tour. A really old friend was in town last week, and we were bragging about that show to a friend of his. I`ll take being young then to now any day.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yeah, I got a buddy who saw Death in 1987. So jealous.

          • more beer

            Sometimes it`s good being old.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            In that regards, indeed.

          • Guppusmaximus

            Yea, I wouldn’t give up my Golden Era experience for anything. The excitement of a new sound, having my face melted for the first time *good times*. Yes, I didn’t get to see my fav Death Metal bands live but I did get to see:

            Napalm Death – Harmony Corruption
            Judas Priest – Painkiller (W/ Megadeth – RIP & Testament – SOB)
            Iron Maiden – No Prayer (W/ Anthrax – Persistance)

      • I saw them once on the Domination tour and Trey performed a solo in the middle of the set with a cigarette in his mouth. Seemed like egotistical thing to do for a DM band.

        • Zeke

          I remember they played the Wetlands on the Domination tour with Dissection and At The Gates opening for them. I didn’t go because it was a 16 and over show and I was 14 and didn’t want to head into the city and not get into the show. To this day I’m still bummed I missed it.

  • old_man_doom

    “Having Nile record a song about hot rods.”

    JIMMIES FUCKING RUSTLED

    • woot? share a youtube link or didn’t happened! I want to hear that 😀

    • Mother Shabubu III

      Do they even have hot rods in Egypt? And I ain’t talkin’ bout camel dicks either, hiyooo!

  • I’m not sure how many of you monkeys read this thing but it’s fantastic. I especially enjoyed this break down:
    “The successful pop artist is one who uses different sounds to play the
    same song; whereas the successful rock artist uses different songs to
    play the same sound. That probably belies the importance of songwriting
    over signature sound, as far as the rock artist is concerned. Generally,
    an album where all ten songs have the same instrumental arrangement
    presented in the same type of mix (ie: most heavy metal albums) better
    have real strength and diversity in songwriting to maintain interest.
    (That or impeccable chops. Both together are ideal, though so many death
    metal bands settle for only the latter one.)”

    • Guppusmaximus

      And , usually, the pop acts were the trendhuggers while the Rock artists created their own sound.

      • The Beargod

        There are as much trendhuggers in rock and metal as in “pop”

    • I can’t read.

    • tertius_decimus

      I’ve read this. And I gotta say, there are many credible points. For me, IDI featured many cool ideas construction-wise that somehow failed to work together and given how Morbid Angel don’t follow Amon Amarth’s splendid formula for writing songs made of the same shit, there’s little to no reasons to blame them. Making something new doesn’t bring guaranteed success. Author(s) must prepare to fail badly and be blamed.

      However, I give no credit to that infamous Cryptopsy abomination that saw the light of the day in 2008.

      • Max

        That one was featured in Decibel’s column too! (The Unspoken King, I think?)

        • tertius_decimus

          Exactly.

    • that breakdown was fukkin heavy dude!

    • Max makes here a very weird point that I didn’t realized and now it’s helping me to understanding more about the rock/metal artistic approach and why it can be so different to other popular genres:

      Quoting:

      “Rock artists are expected to change only in the sense that they explore
      their persona more deeply rather than being compelled to overhaul it
      radically”.

      For me, that totally validates that “metal music followers can be very conservative”, and expand it, because the approach of a fan (like me or us) to the music and the musicians can be more direct, in comparison with classical, electronic or even pop music (in which the presentation matters more than the artist or the message). I think that I was always attracted more to the metal music not only because the serious dichotomies (brutal vs. melowness), but also because metal grabbed that punk ethos of DIY and make it higher, but still retaining a sense of closeness to the listener, because it’s a more outcast genre, a genre that it can expand to a lot of edges and can help through all the subgenres to feel and sense a lot of different vibes.

      It’s probably why a lot of followers of Morbid Angel felt “betrayed” by this album, because everyone was very connected to the band because the shows, aesthetics, music, lyrics, cover arts or overall message; not only because they’re still one of the best selling death metal bands. Because the “persona” worth it more than the “experimentation”.

      I liked this article not only because the writer dare to confront and emit a opinion of such a controversial work, but because it makes it sense of why it was so controversial too.

      Hope I can explained my point. I’m truly sorry if I didn’t 🙁

      • Well put!

      • It’s a weird concept: extreme metal was founded on the pushing of musical boundaries, but the majority of metal listeners are put off by bands who deviate stylistically from their previous work.

        • Yeah, it’s really weird, but fans in this genre can be very unique.

          You don’t listen about a classical music follower about this kind of rants. Because, it’s another style, vibe and mindset.

          But, on the other hand, Metal can swing between popular structures, to complex, to experimental; so, it’s a bit more difficult to really categorize the followers.

        • Rho Stone

          Yeah but I think this is a clear case of wanting to tap into the slipknot cash instead of doing it because artistic reasons.

          • Ca$hing is another point of view that I missed. You’re right about it!

        • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

          This is something I touched on briefly in an op ed but needs a lot more analysis. I think we could write an entire series examining this weird phenomenon.

        • Ted Nü-Djent ™

          That’s because we as fans have different bands for different sounds and for the most part metalheads will expect bands to stick within their confines while we go and listen to whatever the fuck we want.

    • Maik Beninton

      I guess with that idea, bands like Papa Roach are more like pop acts since they change their sound and image completely, always going with what’s popular at the time.

      • I’d agree with that.

      • Max

        Essentially they are. Rock bands that find themselves operating in the pop paradigm will think nothing of switching producers, songwriting methods, wardrobe and even haircuts to stay in the charts.

    • Óðhinn
  • Guacamole Jim

    Not big into Morbid Angel (inb4 poser), but this article kept me hooked from start to finish, and has a hell of a lot of great stuff to say about how we fans deal with stylistic changes. Absolutely stellar read. 10/10.

  • The Beargod

    I’ve never been big on Morbid Angel, Gateways, Covenant and Altars are really the only albums I find enjoyable at all. The rest is meh.

    • The only ones you like are the great ones?

      • The Beargod

        Well they seem to be generally agreed upon, but
        A) I like them less than most
        B) Even meh is too good for the rest, it’s just hard to dislike such an influential band so much.

  • Mother Shabubu III

    Hey, the title tried to warn us it was crap: Illud Divinum InsANUS.

    • Max

      Somebody wrote that in a comment back at the time of release. I tried to find it for article inclusion but couldn’t.

      There were some hilarious comments underneath all the hatchet job reviews back then – one where people started a thread suggesting titles for the J album; another where somebody wrote out the script of answering machine message from Pete to Trey where he was opting out of the record after hearing the demos on pretence of his back surgery. It was all comedy gold. I wish I could’ve found it all again.

      • CT-12

        Hey man, just wanted to say great job, and I’m glad you started this series! I loved when Decibel did the “justify your shitty taste” posts, glad someone cast the first stone on here!

        • Max

          There was some real food for thought in those Decibel columns. The Reinkaos one converted me to that album, too.

  • I feel like I’ve written a few words about this album in the past.

  • Zeke

    Great write up, Max! For what it’s worth, I kind of dig the weirdo video game death metal Trey wrote for this album. It’s Dave Vincent’s cheese factor that gives me issues.

    • Tyree
    • Max

      The cheese factor is, admittedly, quite a hurdle on Illud.

      • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

        Max, this was a great read, and you laid our your arguments well. Joe and I had actually talked about this idea (based also on the Decibel column) some time ago. There’s an album I had in mind but never got around trying to defend. Again, great column.

        • Max

          I really need to learn how to cut down on the word-count, though! Believe me, I try.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            That’s been a huge thrust on my part since we started the blog. I can get unnecessarily wordy quickly, but I didn’t feel that your article was that way.

          • Max

            Well, that’s a relief. The first draft was about 1000 words longer than this (4000).

          • i have the opposite issue.
            …just getting around to reading this article and it’s terrific man! i bet we all could do one of these too. good stuff to catch readers off their guard!

          • Max

            Cheers, Jim!

        • Zeke

          I remember the conversation when Joe told Max to write this article. I was considering offering to write one for Load… it would have been NO WHERE as well thought out as this article.

          • Max

            Do it anyway, man!

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            Do it do it do it!

      • Zeke

        So I went on YouTube and listened to Illud while I read your article. One point about this album that you didn’t touch on is that I feel like the traditional death metal songs on this album are totally dull. I get the feeling that Trey’s head just wasn’t into that style when they did this album, so the traditional songs don’t have the creativity OR the energy that always made MA great.

        Also, since you like Destructo, I’m surprised you don’t like that Mea Culpa song too. Those are definitely my two favorite songs on the album because they both have those crazy video game guitars.

        • Max

          The quality of the traditional death metal songs on it is something that came in for criticism at the time as well. A perfectly valid criticism, if that’s how people feel; but that just comes down to personal taste, which is a very elusively unquantifiable thing.

          All I can really say from my perspective is that I just didn’t feel that way about them – apart from “Beauty Meets Beast”, which was to me pretty boring and totally without the impact or intent that some of Morbid Angel’s past slower numbers had.

          The rest of the traditional songs I either really liked (as in the case of “Blades For Baal” and “Existo Vulgore”), or didn’t mind. I found them much easier to get into than the material from Heretic or even Formulas Fatal to the Flesh.

          “Mea Culpa”? Again – personal taste; just didn’t get into it.

          • Zeke… or Isaac; whatever

            Funny you say that because for me Formulas is the most underrated MA album. I feel like it got slack when it came out because it was the first album without Vincent. But in my opinion the first half of that album is Covenant-level fast MA.

          • Max

            Curiously I never gave Formulas as much time as I should have. It’s the one MA record I’m not intimately familiar with; I didn’t buy it until many, many years after its release. I should probably dust it off now.

          • Zeke

            Yeah, it’s one of my favorites. Give it another try. My problem with Heretic was that it was fast but kind of boring; Formulas was fast but the songs were all catchy.

  • Oli Fucking Sykes, Son.

    If I ever get the chance to write one of these, I think everyone knows what I will do, as much as it would be clickbaity.

    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/810ojbecxZL._SL1425_.jpg

  • BLOODBEARDE

    No comment

  • It’s a great read, Max, and I’m glad I took the time read all of it, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to listen to it without the specter of “Radikult” hanging over it.
    Actually, now that I think about it, that might be a decent experiment: Listen to Illud Divinum Insanus with its two biggest offenders cut out.

  • J.R.

    I will read this when I am don’t doing laundry. Flush laundry.
    But I got the email that MY NEW KAMELOT ALBUM IS COMING TO MEEEEEE man oh man. So excited.
    Follow up comments to the article are forthcoming.

    • BLOODBEARDE

      I miss roy kahn

      • J.R.

        Don’t say goodbye

        Like we’d never meet again

        Leave me a lie

        At the season’s end

        Come lift the light

        Into heaven with a song

        Don’t say goodbye

        ‘Cause it’s been so long

        ;_;

    • Woohoo! Enjoy. I want to listen to it!

      • J.R.

        Hey man if you wanna come over and jam with me that’d be cool!
        I have sandwich supplies aplenty!

        • Tune? Mozarella cheese? Chicken ham? Vegetables? Because that’s the start to win my stomachhart.

    • Sir Tapir the Based™

      Spoiler alert: it’s gonna suck.

      • J.R.

        My [Tapir] I promise
        Death comes to all
        In a heartbeat only silence

        • Sir Tapir the Based™

          Death is a human concept. Tapirs do not die.
          Fite me m8

  • Great read. I still think that the album is the incarnation of the smelliest shit in human history.

  • Good shit per usual, Max.

  • Taylor Jong Un

    Nope! But the remix album is proof that Project Pitchfork can save even the steamiest and prickliest turd of a song.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoE1aTB1g-Y

  • Taylor Jong Un

    In unrelated news, this is how Tyree rolls!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7ygxSlg32g

  • sweetooth0

    Great read, made me finally give this thing a listen (it sounded so terrible I just skipped it when it was released). 3 good songs, and the rest ranging from sorta passable background filler to absolute crap. Flush.

  • Vladimir Poutine

    Dayum. What a fantastic article. Granted, I’ve never listened to Ilud Divinum Insanus (and frankly still have no desire to), but Max makes his case very well here. Eat your heart out, Axl.

  • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

    I have a good idea for one of these. It’s of the most hated albums in metal, the album being Siren Charms.

  • Óðhinn

    “It’s okay, Nile will have an album out soon.”

  • Óðhinn

    I have 7 Morbid Angel albums, and I like them all. This is not one of those albums.